Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Daily Occurrence

This week's PhotoHunt theme is daily.
This summer we noticed that every evening as we watch the sunset from our balcony these two planes pass over head.  This "daily" event occurs at 8:05 p.m..  The planes are probably flying from Perth to Melbourne or Sydney.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blue Plate Special

As we approached Grampians National Park from the south, we could see Mt. Abrupt majestically rise from the plains.  Standing 827 meters tall it may not be the Swiss Alps, but it was the first decent sized hill we had seen for months, and we couldn't wait to climb to the peak.
We found the single-track trail head just outside of Dunkeld, on Halls Gap Road.  It started as a  gradual climb through snow gums and stringybarks.  This was our first visit to an Australian forest and we were bewildered by our surroundings.  Everything was new: the  call of the Crimson Rosella, the medicinal smell of the Eucalyptus trees, the cool mountain air.  We knew that the area was home to some "exotic" animals--swamp wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas--and our eyes eagerly darted from side to side in search of one of these unfamiliar animals.
As we approached the tree-line the trail became very steep.  Our focus turned to the large boulders that formed the cliff in front of us.  My walking sticks were put away.  I needed to use my hands to haul me up the the larger than step-sized boulders.  The sounds of the woodlands were replaced with a thumping in my ears--the blood pumping through my veins.  I was surprised that we completed the exhilarating vertical climb in less than 15 minutes.  The boulders gradually turned to rocky slabs.  I could see the top of the peak in the distance.  All that remained between us and our goal was a gradual ascent along an escarpment rim through the low sub-alpine vegetation.
We were drenched in sweat when we arrived at the peak.  Less than an hour had passed since we left the trail head.  We felt as though we were on top of the world as we took in a birds-eye view of our surroundings.

We were drenched in sweat when we arrived at the peak.  Less than an hour had passed since we left the trail head.  We felt as though we were on top of the world as we took in a birds-eye view of our surroundings.
During lunch our attention was drawn from the horizon to the sky above.  A large wedge-tailed eagle was circling above us.  Round and round it went until suddenly it changed its course and flew into the distance.
When we had our fill of both lunch and the views, we stood to start our descent.  The trail was not clearly marked and we began to question if we had made a wrong turn.  We started to back track, and separated as we looked for the trail.  Mark was slightly ahead of me on my right when a shadow passed on the ground in front of me.  I looked up to see that the raptor had returned.  Instead of flying high above it was now coming closer.  I knew that this was no longer a bird simply assessing the scene.  Now that I was isolated I  became a blue plate special.  Just as it passed close enough for me to hear the flapping of its wings, I instinctively raised my hiking sticks high above me.  To my relief the gutsy hunter quickly pulled back.  
Mark, who had observed the scenario from a distance, started rushing down the hill.  He was still a good distance away when our enemy began to circle above him.  I stood frozen in shock as I watched the wedge-tail eagle drop its talons and start sweeping down.  (Maybe not frozen, since I had the camera out and was shooting away!)  Mark, who doesn't have hiking sticks, had removed his backpack and was holding it between him and the hungry bird.  Either the swinging backpack or his threatening shouts convinced our stalker that there was no meal to be had, and once again it abruptly flew away. 
Figuring there is safety in numbers Mark and I quickly rejoined.   As the adrenaline waned, we were able to joke that we had been warned about Australian sharks, snakes, crocodiles, spiders, blue ring octopus, and box jelly fish--but never did we expect to be hunted by a wedge-tailed eagle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Road Kill and Wedges

About a year ago, when preparing for our first drive through the the Outback, I read that caution needed to be taken when approaching Wedge-tailed Eagles feeding on road-side carrion--they are slow in taking off.  I remembered this as a dark blob appeared on the side of the road in the distance.  I informed Mark that he should slow down.  As we drew closer, we could see a Wedge-tailed Eagle having a mid-afternoon snack on a kangaroo carcass.  Mark had slowed down, but we were not prepared for the haphazard take off of the massive bird.  Rather than flying away from us, it slowly flew directly into our path.  It took several moments for the bird to gain enough altitude to pass over the car.  Had we not been able to pull into the other lane--not a lot of traffic in the Outback-- it would have crashed through the windscreen and ended up in my lap.  Needless to say, for the remainder of our trip from Alice Springs to King Canyon,  whenever I saw something on the horizon I ordered  Mark to slow to a crawl.
The bird with which we had a close encounter gets its name from its long, wedge-shaped tail.  With an average wingspan of over 2.5 m (8.3 ft) and an average length of 1.2 m (4 ft), the Wedge-tailed Eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in the world.  They are found throughout Australia and in Southern New Guinea in almost all habitats, though they tend to avoid rainforest and coastal heaths.  Wedge-tailed Eagles build their nest in a location with a good view of their surroundings--usually the highest point in the area.  When tall trees are absent, small trees, poles, shrubs or cliff faces may be used for nesting.  
Young Wedge-tailed Eagles are mid-brown in color with reddish-brown heads and winds.  During the first 10 years of their lives they will become blacker, until reaching the blackish-brown color of the mature adult.  Females tend to be slightly paler than their mates, but what they lack in color they make up in size.  The females weigh between 4.2 and 5.3 kilograms, while the males are between 3.2 and 4.0 kilograms.  
Other characteristics of the Wedge-tailed Eagle include a bill that is pale pink to cream, brown eyes, and off- white feet.  Also, their legs are feathered all the way down to the base of their toes.
Wedge-tailed Eagles eat both live prey and carrion, though carrion is a major food source.  However, they will hunt available prey including rabbits, lizards, birds, and mammals.  Birds will work together in pairs or large groups to kill larger animals.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kings Crown

Situated in the high on a hill of Kings Park you can find the DNA Tower.  The structure, which is one of Australia's Big Things, is named for its resemblance to the double-helix molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
The tower's construction, inspired by a double staircase in a Chateau at Blois in France, was commissioned by Dr. John Beard, Director of Kings Park and Botanic Garden 1961-1970.  The structure, which was built in 1966 by D & H Fraser Consulting Engineers, is 15 meters high and there is an observation deck located at the top.  It is well worth the effort to climb the 101 steps for panoramic views of the Perth.  The stones in the paving and walls surrounding the tower originated from shires and towns throughout Western Perth, symbolizing that Kings Park is for everyone.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Royal View

Located on the western boundary of Perth's Central Business District is Kings Park.  The 1,000 acre park, one of the largest inner city parks in the world, is a mixture of maintained grassy areas, cultivated gardens, open recreational areas and natural bushland.

The park, which was the first to be designated for public use in Australia, was opened in 1895.  Its location on Mount Eliza, 65 meters above the Swan River, provides excellent views of the city's foreshore and surrounding suburbs.  The tranquil setting is the perfect place for picnics, short strolls or longer walks.  The park provides an ideal retreat within the city.

Nearly two thirds of the Park remain in its natural bushland state.  With over 300 species of native plants and three major plant communities, the park is a wonderful place to become acquainted with the diverse flora of the area.  Visitors who wish to walk among the treetops are able to cross a 52 meter glass and steel arched bridge suspended across a canopy of tall eucalyptus.  In the springtime the gardens come alive with a blaze of brilliant colors and lush scents as Western Australian wildflowers come into bloom.  
There are several paths, children's playgrounds, public facilities and cafes located around the park.  For those who would like to learn more about the park there is a tour twice daily at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Can You Get Your Arms Around This Big Guy?

This week's PhotoHunt is cuddly.

This big guy may not be as cute and "cuddly" as the real thing, but you still got to love him.  The Big Koala is located near the Grampians on the Western Highway between Adelaide and Melbourne.  In 1988 the structure was designed and constructed by sculptor Ben Van Zetton.  The massive marsupial, which stands 14 meters tall and weighs 12 tons, is the home of a gift shop.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I almost hate to admit it, but I have only been to the beach once this year. When I say been to the beach, I mean head out with the umbrella, chair, esky, book and towel--and actually sit on the sand for hours on end. When I first heard that our flat was water-front this was how I imagined spending the summers. However, this isn't how it has turned out at all. Truthfully I find Australian beaches a bit boring--no chiringuitos that sell sardines on a stick, palapas that sell coco locos, or even a huckster. Instead it is just wide open sandy beaches. I am not complaining. I love to sit on our balcony watching the waves roll in, but I miss our beach dramas of Spain--where a day at the beach was an event.
> Our Sunday morning wake up call came at 8:00 a.m. We jumped out of bed since there was not a minute to spare if we were to catch the the 9:25 train from Utrera to Cadiz. We had to be at the train station by 8:30 if we were to beat the long "cola" to buy a ticket and to pop into the cafe for a quick "desayuno". It was important to get that morning coffee fix since we knew that it would be nearly impossible to land a seat on the always packed train that originated in Sevilla. Though, if we quickly boarded the train--before all the other Utreanos--we could usually snag a position where we could perch ourselves on the edge of the luggage rack for the hour and a half ride.
Once in Cadiz we would stop off at the Hipersol to fill up the cooler with nibblies and adult beverages, and then walk over to the Playa Victoria on the Atlantic Ocean. Since our return train wasn't until 7:00 p.m. we would rent an "amaca y sombrilla" (lounge chair and umbrella). We always rented from the same location not necessarily because of the place itself, but because of the the other patrons.
Every Sunday just after noon a large family of Gitanos arrived at the same beach that we frequented. The group was lead down the escarpment that connected the road to the beach by an older, burly, dark haired man. The pace, a slow strut, was set by the leader who was dressed in white and adorned with plenty of gold. On his arm an attractive older woman. She was dressed in a flowing beach sarong, her hair was gracefully and elaborately piled on her head, and plenty of gold adorned her ears, arms, and neck. The other family members quietly followed their leaders. Each person in a designated space. The men were followed by the children who were followed by the women. Once on the beach they would take their places. Each of the men sat on a lounge under one umbrella, and the women sat on lounges, with the children on towels, under a second umbrella.
Over the next several hours we would closely observe the extended family next to us. It was a bit of a cross culture lesson, a lesson that allowed us a small glimpse into that shrouded life of the Spanish Gypsy.
We watched the short-claded men drink beer and boisterously engage in conversation. Occasionally a heated discussion would turn to a bit of a scuff in the sand, but when taken too far a loud "oye" from the man in white would bring it to an end.
The bikini wearing women would pull their chairs out in the sun and catch some rays, while the children headed down to the water to play. At exactly 1:30 p.m., the youngest of the women was sent out to round up the children and the oldest woman began to pull out "bocadillos": "papitas" and "acietunas" (sandwiches, chips and olives). A third woman headed to the bar and always returned with a round of Tinto de Verano, a Sangria-like drink . During this time the sexes would remain segregated and conversations never crossed the gender adult line. Some of the older male children would interact with the males, but for the most part they remained with the other children and women.
At a little bit past 2 p.m. the leader would once again rise. A slight nod would cause a second male to raise. Together, the two men would gradually walk up the slope, slowly looking to their left and right taking in their surroundings. In their absence more Tinto de Veranos were bought and distributed. It wasn't long before the two men filed back towards their domain , the forerunner carrying a large paella. This was the first time since their arrival that all joined together in a large circle. As the second in command distributed utensils and plates, the Paella was placed in the center next to the older woman. Her jewelry sparkled in the sunlight as she filled each plate. Not a bite was taken until all had been served. Lunch was followed by coffee and a siesta.
At 5:00 p.m. a signal announced that it was time to leave. We would leave shortly after the Gypsy family. They understood perfectly that those who arrive at the train station early were guaranteed a seat!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No Willy Willies Here

Last week one of my cyber-space friends had to take her cat to the vet.  She wasn't looking forward to the event and ended her post by asking, "Ever tried putting the Tasmanian Devil into a cat carrier?"  If I had read this post two years ago, I would have imagined a whirling dust devil.  However, since moving to Australia I have learned that there really is an animal called the Tasmanian Devil.
The similarities between the Warner Brothers bipedal Taz and the Australian marsupial are limited to the ravenous appetite and a bad temper.

The Tasmanian Devil only survives in the wild on the island state of Tasmania.  However, widely spread fossils indicate that they were once found on mainland Australia.  It is believed that due to meteorological changes and the spread of the dingo they became extinct prior to the arrival of European settlers.   
The Tasmanian Devil is not a large animal, and they are about the size of a small dog.  Its build is stocky and muscular.  The fur of the marsupial is black, though patches of white can occur on its  rump or chest.  When under stress it produces a strong odor and its ears turn pink.  It makes a variety of boisterous noises, but its vocalizations are primarily to warn and ward off intruders.        
The devil is carnivorous and nocturnal.  It roams considerable distances, up to 16 km a night, in search for food--either carrion or prey.  It uses its powerful jaws and teeth to completely devour the carcass bones, fur and all.
After almost a century of being hunted by those that viewed them as a threat to livestock, the Tasmanian Devil was on the brink of extinction.  However, in 1941 they officially became protected and their numbers began to increase.  Unfortunately, starting in the mid 1990's the species has fallen victim to the devastating Devil Facial Tumor Disease-a fatal condition characterized by cancers around the mouth and head.  Currently the wild Tasmanian devil population has decreased by 80%, and the animal is now considered endangered.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ten Canoes

Last night we watched "Ten Canoes"  by directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr.  Released in 2006, this was the first movie to be filmed in an Australian Aboriginal language.  It follows the tradition of Aboriginal oral history, and a storyteller leads the audience through a tale that includes love, loyalty, duty, history, customs and laws.
The story is not told in the traditional narrative form that we are familiar with, and the never-seen storyteller jokes about this at the beginning and the end of the film. The format is not linear, and several stories are interpolated.  However, the same cast is used for the multiple stories. Confusion is avoided through switches between black &  white and color differentiate the different stories lines.
The story is not action packed, and many may find it a bit slow.  However, the scenery from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory is magnificent. Also, humor is included, though I question if it is authentic to the Aboriginal culture, or included to keep the audience engaged.  I am not sure that I would recommend the film based on the story line, but the presentation and some of the content make viewing this movie worth your time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Broken In Name Not Spirit

This week's PhotoHunt theme is "broken".
This mural can be found in Broken Hill, New South Wales.  The isolated mining city is located near the border with South Australia. Originally the town was named after the surrounding hills that appeared to have a break in them, though the actual broken hill no longer exists since it has been mined away.
In the mid 1800's several European Explorers passed through the area, but it wasn't until 1883 that the town was established by Charles Rasp who discovered what he thought was tin.  However, instead of tin it turned out that Broken Hill was sitting on one of the world's largest silver-lead-zinc mineral deposit.   Hence the Silver City was born.
For nearly to 100 years the was town dominated by the mining industry. However, since the heyday of the  zinc boom in the 1970's the prosperity and population of the town have been in a decline.  The town has attempted to revitalize it's economy by focusing on tourism. It has also become a haven for artists.  Murals, like the one above and several art galleries can be found throughout the town.  

Friday, February 12, 2010

Not What AT&T Envisioned

Today I Skyped with my Mom twice.  Those who know me well may wonder what the big deal is since I normally talk to her at least once a day--and often for an hour or more.
Well during our second conversation, we started to reminisce about how just two years ago our communication was limited to once a week.  We had not yet discovered Skype and were using the antiquated phone.  Thanks to phone cards we were able to keep the cost relatively low--about five dollars an hour--but now that seems outrageous since we can talk all we want for free.  Well more or less free, if you take into account we would pay for internet connectivity no matter what.
Our conversation down memory lane took us to what must have been the dark ages.  It is hard to believe that when I first started living overseas, about 25 years ago, I was only able to talk to my mother once a month.  I didn't even have a phone in my apartment but, fortunately, my landlady Conchita, would allow me into her home for about 15 minutes a week to talk to my mom.   Of course, calls couldn't be spontaneous. We had to scheduled our calls ahead of time so I could be sure to be home when Conchita screeched down the two flights of stairs hollering, "Maaayaaa teleeefooonoo".  Of course, more often than not, I was anxiously awaiting the much anticipated call just outside Conchita's flat, so I was saved the drama.
Then there was the time I was Eurailing around the Old Continent and I went for nearly two months without a call home.  I wouldn't have even had made that one call except that my traveling companion had called my Mom the day before to inform her that I had left him stranded without a passport or money, and that he had filed a police report against me in Germany.  I had to call and explain that in a drunken state we had a bit of a row and separated, not thinking about how we had already checked out of our accommodations and I had the key to the locker back at the Train Station.  The bumbling idiot that I was with explained the situation to the person in charge of the railway lockers and got him to open up our locker to make sure our stuff was still there.  Unfortunately, he had him open the wrong locker and, hence, decided I had split or thrown away all of his stuff.  Meanwhile, I was hanging out at the train station waiting for him to show up, so we could move on.  Fortunately, we eventually found each other and were able to continue on our way after a visit to the police station and a phone call to a very hysterical mother.
Currently, when on the road, I still don't call my Mom.  However, whenever my computer is on and I see the little green "available", light on Skype I have no problem reaching out and touching Mom.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mungo National Park

An ear piercing screech woke me from my sleep.  More annoyed than worried--I had come to anticipate the predawn wake up call of the cockatoo--I slowly opened my eyes.  Through the netting I could see that the early morning sky still resembled a dark drop cloth splattered with millions of tiny white paint drops.  Soon the celestial sphere would turn grey, and then pink and orange as the first sun rays peeked over the horizon.
Mark, stirred next to me.  After a good morning peck on the forehead, I could feel him searching for his frocs (faux croc shoes).  I knew that there was no time to dawdle, that the race against the heat of the day was on.  The flies had beaten us up, and as we took down our camp the insistent little pest tried to crawl into our eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  It wasn't long before we gave in and pulled out the fly nets.  In the cooler morning air the head coverings proved to be less of a bother than the pesky insects.  We wouldn't be heating up billy this morning; we weren't sure if the Total Fire Ban was still in place, so instead we threw on our Camelbaks and hit the trail to the scenic overlook.
Within 30 minutes we stood on the edge of an ancient dry lake bed.  As we looked across the arid land it was hard to believe that 14,000 years ago the area was a series of lakes strung between Willandra Creek and the Lachlan River.  In the far distance we could see a huge crescent-shaped dune.  Due to a lack of time we decided it would be best to return to the car and drive to the other side of the lake where we would b able to explore the lunette.
The drive across the now extinct lake bottom took us past the Gol Gol Sheep Station, established in the 1950s when squatters moved into the area.  The original Woolshed, which was constructed in 1869 is still standing.  Perhaps it's durability can be attributed to the fact that it was made of locally hand cut Cypress Pine, a termite resistant timber.  Other relics of the era can be seen and include part of a rabbit proof fence and stock yards.

As we approached the far edge of the saltbush landscape we could see what is known as the Great Wall of China raise from the lake bed in front of us.  The "walls", which are almost 35 kilometers long and reach 30 meters high in parts, have been formed over thousands of years by sediments deposited by the winds as the lake dried.  They are composed of three distinct layers of sands and soil.  The bottom layer which is reddish in color was formed between 100,000 and 120,000 years ago.  This is covered by a greyish middle layer, which was deposited between 50,000 and 25,00 years ago.  The top layer, pale brown in color was laid down between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago.  Over time the elements have worn away at the land, leaving bright multi-colored pinnacles and alluvial fans.
As we exited the car we were greeted by a light breeze.  This would not only help keep the heat at bay, but it would provide relief from the pesky flies.  The start of the walk consisted of a board walk that leads from the car park to the sculptured walls.  From a distance the spires and landforms seemed dwarfed by the surrounding hills, but as we drew closer they became more and more majestic.  Not because of their size, but because of the way that the wind and rain has methodically carved and chiseled away at the land to make perfectly formed sculptures.    As we walked through the sculpture garden we couldn't help but be awestruck by the combinations of colors and textures.  A truly spectacular way to start the day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Drought Ravaged Land

The sun was low on the horizon when we pulled into the campground at Mungo National Park.  We were not surprised to be greeted by a Total Fire Ban sign. After all, the temperatures had soared towards 40˚C as we drove across the south western part of New South Wales. But we were surprised to find other campers in the park.  As we did a quick drive about my surprise turned to shock as I noted that more than one of the campsite had a Coleman Stove in use.  Was it ignorance or defiance?  It seemed terribly irresponsible to have an open flame in such volatile conditions. What ever the case, it was not an activity that we would be partaking in that evening.  
We found an isolated camping spot, and as we exited the car we were greeted with temperatures so extreme that it felt as though we were suffocating.  To add to the discomfort of the oppressive heat, we were immediately surrounded by a large swarm of flies. I wanted to retreat to the cab of the Prado to escape the irritating discomforts, but I knew that we needed to setup camp before the sun dropped below the horizon.  Fortunately, the pitching of the tent was relatively effortless, since due to the heat we decided to keep the outer cover of the tent off.  We knew there was no need to worry about rain.  The only complication was the constant need to swat at the flies.
Just as we slid into our plastic Ikea chairs around the card table, daylight turned to dusk.  We felt a sense of relief, not because the long day of driving was behind us or because our bedrolls were prepared or even because slightly lower temperatures were on the horizon, but because the transition from day to night meant that the flies would quickly disappear.
After a couple of icy beers to help cool us down, we eagerly ate our cold picnic meal.  Cold bar-b-que chicken and potato salad had never tasted so good, perhaps because we knew that by morning our ice would be gone and any future meals would come from cans and jars.  
The curtain of night brought with it an extreme silence.  The drone of the flies and the screeches of the birds had disappeared with nightfall.  The only sound I could hear was a low buzz inside my own head, the never ending thought process in constant motion.  The silence of the outback was further emphasized as I walked to our tent, each step bringing an amplified crunch of the sunburned earth and dehydrated weeds below my feet.
Silence was once again broken as I unzipped the fly screen on the tent.  I dropped to my knees to find that the heat of the earth had warmed not just the floor, but also our air mats and sleeping bags.  The emanating heat was surprisingly gentle, and as I laid on my back observing the millions of stars above me I felt comforted.  Mother Nature's warm caresses were accompanied by her harmonious song--the crackles and pops of the cooling earth that lasted well into the night.  I fell into sleep wishing there was something I could do for this drought ravaged land. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Larger Than Average

This week's photo hunt is average.

This bench is larger than average.  It was built in September 2002 as part of the Landscapes and Backgrounds exhibition.  It is over 2.5 times larger than a regular park bench.  It is located on the top of the Line of Lode, which is a high hill of mine deposits in the center of the city of Broken Hill, NSW.

Friday, February 5, 2010

After Life

Just to the south of town lies the Tibooburra Cemetery.  Like the town, it is a bit tattered on the edges but rich in history and one can only imagine the untold stories that lay buried below the earth.
The grounds that were once protected from undesired visitors by a feral animal proof fence--which is now a victim of gravity-- remain in their natural state.  There are no trees nor grass here,  just plenty of red sand covered in goat heads and ant piles.  As you walk among the graves you realize that the area is not in disrepair.  Recent visitors have left silk flowers, bottles of beer, and tidied up the area.  It is as though the land has been left unchanged to provided its inhabitants the same habitat in death that they lived in life.
Grave markers vary from a small worn wood tree stump, metal plates with numbers, simple crosses, marble headstones, to elaborate concrete slabs.  Some of the markings include names, ages, stories of untimely deaths, and proclamations of love.  Others were just markers, reminders of unknown pioneers of the region.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time In The Outback

 As we drove towards the vast horizons of the Australian Outback, time became more and more arbitrary.  Our lives no longer focused on the numbers on our wrist watches; instead, they began to revolve around the sun.  
Our mornings didn't begin with the loud buzz of an alarm clock or the first ray of light, but rather with the predawn shrill of the black cockatoo.  We never found ourselves lingering on the hard ground, attempting to sneak in a few more minutes of shut eye, because we knew that our time to explore was limited and that as the sun rose in the sky it would bring with it the discomforts that we had begun to associate with the Outback summer sunshine.
As the first rays of sun are cast across the arid land the desert, landscape comes to life.  Snakes and lizards sit on flat open spaces and rocks, warming themselves in the early morning sun.  Wallabies and kangaroos gather around billabongs for a final nibble of the tender green shoots and a sip of water.  Birds that roost in the small wooded areas of the desert fill the air with their calls and songs.
It is during the early hours of the morning that we were able to leave the gullies and washes where trees could grow and explore the non-protected areas of the desert floor.  Early morning is the time to climb undulating hills and ridges, to use our raised vantage point to observe the contrasting shapes and colors of our surroundings.  The wide open spaces allow us to feel the texture of the air and to absorb the absolute stillness.
As the sun climbs higher in the sky the golden glow of its rays turns to a searing force that slowly drains the earth of its color and beauty.  We learned that when the suffocating heat of the summer causes the sun baked desert to provocatively dance before your eyes it was time to seek protection.  It was during the hours of extreme heat that we continued our Outback explorations from the comfort of our air-conditioned vehicle, exploration that would last for hours on end, because we knew what awaited us outside our protective enclosure.  We would continue our drive until just before sunset.
There is something magical about a summer sunset in the Australian Outback.  It is a time when the sun-baked, white-washed landscape is renewed with color, as it takes on an orange-redish glow. The silence of the heat is broken with the constant hum of the cicada and the territorial disputes of the kookaburra.  Life slowly returns to the area as dusk brings relief from the sun's brutal rays, though darkness will not be enough to completely remove the heat that envelops the land.